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Music Business 2008

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I’ve had a lot of musicians contact me lately asking for input and advice — it seems like music is dying and work is scarce everywhere; indeed, these seem to be very trying times for a lot of musicians all across Canada. “It’s not like it used to be” is something I hear a lot these days. It’s a changing landscape and change can be very difficult, especially when you’re already used to working under a different system. Adapting isn’t always easy but it’s even harder when you don’t know how to adapt nor what needs to change…

People don’t buy albums anymore — they buy songs. People don’t buy into groups or artists that much anymore either — they buy into songs. It’s important to understand and accept this concept (and not try to fight change) if you want to make music work for you in this new era. The days of record stores are numbered — iTunes, Amazon, etc. are here to stay. Songs, not albums.

Change like this can be difficult, but it’s important to allow yourself to evolve and allow your mentality to change instead of concentrating your efforts on resisting change and hanging onto the past. No matter how much you like it or not, times are changing — they always do. Change is inevitable. Those who accept this with an open mind and understand it first will get the “head start”, but more importantly, you have to know what to do to make this new system work for you, and know what to do to get the most out of it. I’ve seen some musicians confused by what’s changing and confused about how it affects them — they see the obvious need to take action but act in haste, make the wrong changes and end up losing their focus. Again, it’s important to know what to do, and for that matter, what not to do.

Ultimately, the thing that still matters the most is the music. No one, nor any company can change that. Your focus still has to be on the music. Whatever you determine that needs to be changed, you can’t do it at the expense of the music. Some people have argued that, in some ways, the music now matters even more than before, and likewise, others have argued that the music now matters much less. But if you really look at it carefully, you can see that only the end objectives have changed — the mediums and distribution channels, (and necessarily, so have the ways that the artist now fits into the whole puzzle.) The packaging may have changed, but the product is still music. It can be hard to see this sometimes, especially when you’re concentrating on making changes, and it can be easy to lose focus of the fact that the music is still what matters most. Make good music, and make more of it, more often. I know, that’s easier said than done.

In the meantime, the transition periods are always the most painful and the most confusing, but the sooner you “get it” and make the necessary changes, the sooner you can start getting the most out of it. If you can learn to accept change and can teach yourself to adapt quickly, you’ll be better prepared the next time things change, which, these days, is just around the corner…